Monthly Archives: May 2016

But Night Crawler is so much more Evocative

Our yard in May contains the world. Wisconsin teems with life. For many of us living in climates where the temperatures are at or below freezing for so many months of the year, this is a heady experience. One day you’re wearing your jacket and mittens and looking at everything brown and gray, and almost like Dorothy’s arrival in Munchkinland, the next moment goes blindingly Technicolor.

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A Few Minutes Ago…

It is grass that melting snow washes to emerald green. Tiny lime-colored leaves on black branches. Tulips, orange, and pink, and red. Daffodils, deep yellow and apricot. Lilacs, deep purple, lavender, and white.

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Munchkinland

Robin’s breast russet, and then those impossibly lovely blue shells their babies shed in unexpected places. I find one on the metal chair on the front deck. Cardinals, still here, looking tropical now, the crimson against the green. Red-winged black birds. White herons. Orioles, as orange as the fruit we feed them.

The sky at day, a brilliant blue, at night diamonds and velvet.

 

My husband calls me out to the yard.
“You have to see this.”
It’s dark and slightly cool. Wet.

“Look.”
He shines a flashlight across the lawn, catching the quiet, clandestine movements of thousands of earthworms.
They are everywhere. The lawn is undulating like the surface of a lake. I’m afraid I’ll hurt them.

He bids me come. “Step slowly. Lightly.”

I’m sure I shouldn’t be out like this, could never tread lightly enough. I say a quick prayer. “Please don’t let me do any harm.”

We stand together watching the glistening movement as the worms slide back into the ground. Everywhere the light hits them, they move. We talk about what they are doing. We’ve never learned.

I suspect they come up out the earth and the rich dark loom to gulp in the sweet, sweet air. My husband suspects it’s for sex.

We know very little about the life of worms. Such a common thing to know so little about. We feel silly, and are sure these must be things our parents were born knowing. Like the call of a mockingbird.

Then, a voice inside me says, Thibookworm-151738__180s is why they’re called night crawlers, Lori. And I know I am a complete dolt. How could this simple fact have escaped my attention all these years? Though it’s no excuse, night crawlers is not a term I ever remember being used in my family. Just earthworms, or simply worms. We didn’t fish, and we didn’t garden much. Out of sight, out of mind.

But “Night crawlers” is so much more evocative. Briefly, I picture little worm-sized, worm-shaped zombies crawling out of tiny worm-graves, marked by little crosses and a mausoleum or two—“Here lies Squirmy, Beloved Father and Husband”—our entire lawn a movie set for a new Tim Burton story.

graveimage                   How could I miss this?

“They’re good for the garden,” I say. (We’ve just planted tomatoes, peas, beets, onions, peppers, lettuce, and broccoli.)
“Yes.”
As we walk back to the house, I think, “And fireflies will be next.”

 

Rachel “Lori” Pohlman, Copyright 2016

*For some interesting facts on worms, such as the fact that, yes, there is some sex involved in night crawling (but that’s not all they do), go to: http://blog.nwf.org/2014/02/ten-things-to-know-about-earthworms/.

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Filed under Humor, Nature, Night Crawlers, Seasons, Uncategorized, Wisconsin, Worms, Writing

Fireside Chats in Springtime

 

Early Spring 2015 048

Silly me. I had this idea to write a WWII-era literary fiction novel a while back. Quite a while back.

I spent a lot of time researching in between writing scenes. I felt I had a decent grasp on the time period; my dad was a WWII marine—I grew up waking to The Marine Corps Hymn–and though I majored in English, not history, I spent a good deal of time learning about and teaching the Holocaust to my eighth-grade classes when I taught The Diary of Anne Frank. I even wrote a YA novel about a Polish boy falling in love in war-torn Poland for my Master’s thesis in creative writing.

I’d just need to check a few dates here and there, maybe read a few more books and immerse myself in the movies and music of the 1940s, and presto! I’d be good.

Not so true.

What is true is that old saying about “the more you learn, the more you realize how much you don’t know.” Today’s epiphany: Go Deeper. I stumbled into going deeper today almost by accident. I was looking up a few Roosevelt quotes for a scene in my manuscript where my protagonist listens to the president on the radio. Just a few lines, you know, to add realism and texture to the scene.

                                                                                                Paris to home 2013 033   GO DEEPER

And I find myself, hours later, too torn up to write the scene. I’ll write it tomorrow, or maybe the next day. You see, I found recordings of Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking to the American public. I listened to them. Then I found recordings of the broadcasts made by the journalists who had followed him throughout his long presidency talking about him on the day of his death.

These recordings are priceless. You will need Kleenex. And maybe a dog. Or a loved one nearby. Luckily, my protagonist has a hankie, a dog, and a brother.

Fireside Chat           (Not my photo)                 Silly me? Yes. But also grateful me.

If you haven’t done so, and you’re interested, go to http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/archives/collections/utterancesfdr.html to get started.

Three dates you might be interested in:

January 11, 1944: Radio Address to the Nation- State of the Union message to Congress (30 min.)

November 2, 1944: Campaign radio speech from the White House—“The World is Rising” (15 min.)

December 24, 1944: Christmas Eve Address (5 mins.) Make sure to stay tuned for The National Anthem that immediately follows.

Rachel “Lori” Pohlman, Copyright2016

 

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Give Me Land, Lots of Land

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I lived most of my life in the West, quite a departure from the early Wisconsin years.  I write this on a United Airlines flight, rocketing across a black starry sky back into the West yet again, a vast desert landscape dotted with mountains and strip malls and the constantly pumping veins of freeways clogged with anonymous western humans.

Funny that I’m happy to be going this time.

For the first time ever I realize this, I am going by choice, I want to go. The West came to me as a young girl so suddenly that I had no dreams created to soften it. The journey there, several non-stop days of riding lodged into the back of a sixty-four VW Beetle, stuck into an area as narrow as my skinny-kid hips, clothing and personal belongings of all varieties, belonging to myself,  Dad, and Billy piled to the ceiling, covering the floor up to seat level, and totally obliterating the small oval back window.

It was hot. The heat was the most salient quality of the ride. That, and I did not know why or where or for how long I was being taken away from Kenosha and my mother. Just a knobby -kneed kid going along for the ride.

red-rock-canyon-1303620_960_720Blue Diamond, Nevada is quite an amazing place. Or, at least it was to me. The desert in summer. So stark. Cactus? Never saw those before. And it was nearly treeless. It was as if green was a forgotten color there. The long, silent two-lane road. Mirages wavering ahead of us, always staying ahead. I thought, if we could just catch up to one, I’d hear the splash of our tires going through the water like back home at Pet’s Woods.

Mountains made of naked red rock. Country music. And at night a dome of shooting stars like I’d seen at the Planetarium in Chicago once.

Off in the distance, a glow. “That’s Las Vegas,” Dad said.  “A bad place. We’re not going there.”

He took us to Blue Diamond. For a visit. Aunt Honey and Uncle David lived in a small stucco ranch house. Not an actual ranch, but there were horse stalls just a few blocks away. Aunt Honey was my mom’s sister, a smaller red-ponytailed version of my mom. When she tucked me into bed, I closed my eyes and imagined she was Mom; her voice sounded nearly the same. Uncle David was a tall man, with dark hair and crinkles around his eyes, crinkles I would soon learn that were both from living in the bright desert sun and from laughing.

They were animal crazy, these cowboy relatives, and this probably sealed the deal for me when I came to learn that Dad was going to drop Billy and me off there indefinitely. I could definitely stand to live in a house with an actual chipmunk named Mike who sat on our shoulders and ate out of our hands at meal times, a huge German Shepherd named Rip, a white Persian cat named Idgit, a goat named Easter, and a horse named Christmas.chipmunk-804573_960_720     I was allowed to go to the stalls alone and feed and groom Easter and Christmas. I fed them the wrong grain for a while and they put on some extra weight, but I didn’t get in trouble about it.horses-back-587609_960_720

Aunt Honey and Uncle David seemed happy together and also happy enough to have us with them. Billy and I fell rather easily into life on the desert. Though I cried a couple of times initially, Aunt Honey was always proud to remind me in later years that I cried even harder the day Mom showed up to get us.

By this time summer was over and we were attending school, making friends, learning to square dance and ride. We’d also each been given our own pet to care for, Billy got a puppy and me a kitty. Billy dressed up as a Vegas showgirl for Halloween, and I was a nun. We began to look forward to the next holidays, and a promised camping trip over Christmas.

So, it was a surprise when Uncle David drove off one day and came back several hours later with our mom. She swept into the house, smiling a smile so brilliant that I immediately wondered how I had ever thought she and Aunt Honey looked alike. I took in her blonde hair, cut in a bob just like my Barbie doll’s style, navy blue capris, crisp white midriff top neatly knotted at the waste, and high heeled sandals.

“Ally, you look fantastic!” said Aunt Honey.

Mom laughed. “I feel fantastic.”

This was a woman no one could ignore, no one could leave, no one could resist loving. I wished Dad were there to see her.

Billy and I gaped at her, unable to move until she moved in front of us, stooped down and enclosed us tightly in her arms. She smelled wonderful, like soap and spice.

“I’ve come to take you home,” she said, deeply dimpled.

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Sitting Shiva

In seventh grade, when I was still new to Orthodox Judaism, the general studies principal at my school lost his mother, and the students were bused, grade by grade, to visit him at his home,…

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